With Guam’s number of confirmed dengue cases at 12, teens are talking about the public health threat. Worried about acquiring the disease, some are taking precautions and are sharing their thoughts with other members of Gen Z.
An athlete at George Washington High School, Cason Jackson initially thought that dengue fever wouldn’t be an issue.
"As the cases rose, I began to worry about mosquito bites since I am often outdoors playing sports," he said.
The senior reasoned that since Guam is currently in its rainy season, the presence of mosquitoes will increase — comparing it to the appearance of multiple butterflies a couple of months ago.
“Since we live on a tropical island, rain is constant throughout the year,” he said. “As a result, mosquitoes will continue to reproduce and inhabit bodies of water on Guam.”
The 17-year-old is confident that the government is trying its best to control the issue by holding cleanups and placing mosquito traps around public areas.
The Mangilao resident doesn’t let his worries about dengue fever prevent him from participating in sports.
“At football practices and games, I have started wearing long-sleeve shirts and leggings to reduce the chances of mosquitoes biting me.”
Having a universal blood type
Entering her previously locked school due to insecticide application, Zia Sandoval reminds herself that dengue fever can affect anyone.
The junior at Harvest Christian Academy said she has struggled with mosquitoes. "I am aware that my blood type (type O-) is especially appealing to mosquitoes," the Yigo resident said. “I’ve been constantly paranoid about how long I stayed outdoors.”
Sandoval observed that there were many times she would overhear jokes about dengue from students and even adults — a sad realization.
“I have had many family members in the Philippines who suffered from the virus,” she said. “I’m well aware that there is nothing to laugh about, especially when your loved ones are at the risk of death.”
To prevent mosquito bites, her family members limit time spent outdoors around dawn and dusk and constantly have an insect repellent in their storage.
New school rules
Jenny Milan, a sophomore at Academy of Our Lady of Guam, initially thought that people were exaggerating the dengue situation. However, her views on the issue changed when she heard about a Harvest student who was diagnosed with dengue.
"Dengue is a serious problem that should be handled as soon as possible due to the lives of citizens being in danger of catching the disease," she said.
She believes that the dengue outbreak will eventually calm down due to the administration’s efforts to combat the disease.
“I personally think that the government is doing well in handling the disease by spraying down schools and public areas,” Milan stated. “The people have united in their attempts to prevent the dengue fever outbreak from spreading further.”
AOLG has allowed students to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, she said. Their usual uniform that consists of a 3/4 sleeve blouse and skirt is not ideal when avoiding mosquitoes.
Students have been restricted from going to the Hagåtña swimming pool and tennis court for physical education classes, she said.
When outdoors, Milan wears appropriate clothing and an insect repellent lotion. Her family also bought anti-dengue items, such as citronella candles, and strong-smelling plants, such as oregano and basil, to ward off mosquitoes.
Sean Hipolito encourages other teens to take the outbreak seriously. The senior at Father Duenas Memorial School said that if residents apply proper protection and implement the correct measures to prevent mosquitoes, the problem will diminish.
“We just need to either fully clothe ourselves with a jacket and long pants, or we can use an anti-dengue lotion. The one I use is called Off,” Hipolito said.
The Dededo resident was alarmed after hearing about the first dengue case. He is worried that if a person acquires the disease for the second time, it could be fatal.
“I think Guam isn't in danger since the problem can be easily controlled. Anti-dengue products can be used more — clearing up the chaos quickly,” the Friar said. “However, it's easier said than done.”
Hipolito said community involvement is important in controlling this outbreak. "We just need to make sure we inform everybody about this disease and show them the proper procedures," he added.
As the island community takes such preventive measures, teens play an important role in the battle against dengue. They look forward to the day when they can fearlessly venture outdoors again.